FRA Allows BNSF to Split Extended Haul Trains without Further Testing

This is a follow up to a previous article concerning the BNSF Railway’s (BNSF’s) recent petition for waiver from certain provisions of the Federal railroad safety regulations contained in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 215, Railroad Freight Car Safety Standards, relating to the combining of two existing trains, and any subsequent separation of the combined consist without the need for additional inspections of either consist. BNSF limited its request to situations where it either combines existing train consists that have been properly inspected and tested in compliance with all applicable regulations (i.e., where both consists have had a Class I brake test (§ 232.205) and a Class IA brake test (§ 232.207)) or where the trains at issue have been designated as extended haul trains and are compliant with all requirements of § 232.213 and each individual consist has had a § 215.13 pre-departure inspection

The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Railroad Safety Board (Board) has just issued a decision granting BNSF’s request, in part. The decision allows BNSF to combine and subsequently separate two individual extended haul trains operating in compliance with 49 CFR § 232.213 without conducting additional inspections under 49 CFR §§ 215.13 or 232.205, subject to conditions listed in the decision. However, the Board did not concur with granting BNSF’s petition in its entirety because it concluded that BNSF provided no data to justify the requested relief as applied to all trains. In addition, the Board also maintained that it was excluding high-hazard flammable trains (HHFTs) as defined in 49 CFR § 171.8, from participation in this waiver because HHFTs already have consist and operational restrictions under 49 CFR § 174.310 which may be incompatible with the goals of the waiver. “This is just the type of decision that we can expect from the current administration and shows why elections are so important,” says BRC General President Richard A. Johnson. “Had we’ve been under President Obama’s administration or potentially a Biden administration, the FRA would have not have so easily rubber stamped such a request from BNSF.”

Click here to view a copy of the Board’s decision.

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